Canton-Potsdam Hospital providing low-dose CT scan for lung cancer

Canton-Potsdam Hospital (CPH) is introducing a program to provide low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan screening of patients for lung cancer. In a letter to medical practitioners in the area, Stacie Woodward, RN, Director of CPH Imaging shared that low-dose CT scanning is the most effective early detection tool in the fight against lung cancer, which adversely affects a disproportionate number of men and women in St. Lawrence County, compared to the rest of New York State and the nation.

Tod Robertson, Radiology Technologist, and Stacie Woodward, Director of the Imaging Department, discuss the low-dose CT scan with a patient at the hospital’s main campus in Potsdam.Tod Robertson, Radiology Technologist, and Stacie Woodward, Director of the Imaging Department, discuss the low-dose CT scan with a patient at the hospital’s main campus in Potsdam.

“A low-dose chest CT scan can detect lung nodules years before they would ever be seen on a regular chest x-ray. A recent landmark study has shown that screening, using a low-dose CT scan in smokers and ex-smokers can detect and reduce lung cancer mortality by up to 20%,” said Woodward.

The scan is appropriate only for current or former cigarette smokers who are between the ages of 55 and 75 years, with 30 pack-years of smoking history (pack-years=packs/day x number of years smoking). Former cigarette smokers who have quit within the previous fifteen years are also eligible. For a fee of $200, participants in the program will receive the scan, a professional reading and interpretation by a licensed radiologist, a CD-rom with the images for the participant’s records, follow-up phone call and letter to the participant’s personal practitioner, free smoking-cessation counseling, and referrals to other medical professionals as well as access to CPH’s oncology program for scan-detected abnormalities. Participants will also receive a reminder in one year to schedule another scan if desired. Insurance does not yet cover this preventive screening.

G. Michael Maresca, MD, Chief of Imaging and Chief of the Medical Staff, along with Michael J. Tulloch, MD, and other practitioners have led the effort to adopt an organization-wide stance on both lowering radiation exposure and increasing the numbers of at-risk patients who are screened for lung cancer. To support this effort, CPH purchased a special software package for its 64-slice Siemens Somatom CT scanner.

“CPH was the first in the northern New York region to acquire a 64-slice scanner, and has continued to upgrade its capabilities aligned with advances in our knowledge of radiation exposure in medical screening,” said Woodward. “We were also the first to adopt low-dose adaptive software. The software is capable of calibrating more precisely the dosage of radiation that must be given in order to capture the clearest images for the best diagnosis,” she added.

According to Dr. Maresca, “Some exposure is inevitable. In most cases, the benefits in terms of early detection of cancer outweigh the risks,” he noted. “This new technology reduces the risks, and can even ‘pass over’ areas of soft tissue that are irrelevant to the examination, but might ordinarily absorb radiation,” he said. “We have an obligation to reduce the risks of exposure as much as possible, and this adaptive software allows us to do that while still capturing the highest quality images.”